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12/7/2018
Cobb Chamber Announces 2018 Citizens of the Year

The Cobb Chamber’s Area Councils have selected their 2018 Citizens of the Year. Citizen of the Year Awards are given to honor an individual whose impact through the years will be recognized and regarded with pride as a role model throughout the area. These outstanding citizens were chosen for their definable, exceptional deeds, with which he or she has made their community a better place to live. Awards were given to deserving individuals based on local area nominations.

East Cobb Citizen of the Year
Brenda Rhodes, founder of the Marietta-based nonprofit Simple Needs GA (SNGA), has been named the 2018 East Cobb Citizen of the Year. Rhodes founded SNGA as a way to collect additional resources for Cobb’s homeless population.

Since 2010, Rhodes and SNGA has provided Christmas presents to children through its Spirit of Christmas program, distributed beds, furniture and other household items to deserving individuals and families through its Simply Sheltered program and delivered duffel bags of toiletries to MUST Ministries and other local shelters, among other outreach programs.

Rhodes has been actively involved in the East Cobb community for over 20 years, volunteering her time with a host of nonprofit organizations in Cobb and metro Atlanta, including MUST Ministries, Good Mews Animal Foundation, Special Olympics, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Hands on Atlanta, WellStar Foundation and the Center for Family Resources.

She now works as a business analyst at Genesys, but she will tell you that her real full-time job is Simple Needs GA and serving her community.

Smyrna Citizen of the Year
Susan Thayer has been named the 2018 Smyrna Citizen of the Year. Thayer is a retired educator who has served on the Cobb County School System School Board since 2015. Over her nearly 40 years of experience, she has served as a teacher, a guidance counselor at Osborne High School and as principal of Pebblebrook High.

“She’s done so much for the school system. She has probably been the most knowledgeable school board member we’ve had in her first and only term,” Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon said. “She knew the system and she represented the Smyrna area as well as anybody could have represented us.”

Thayer’s involvement with Cobb’s school board will come to an end in January, as she did not seek re-election.

Marietta Citizen of the Year
Pam Younker has been named the 2018 Marietta Citizen of the Year. Younker has lived in Cobb County for more than 30 years and has dedicated her time to the entire community, especially leading community support for Dobbins Air Reserve Base. She went through the Honorary Commanders program in 2007 and has since chaired the program and spear-headed the Cobb community’s ongoing engagement and support of the base. She also represents Cobb on the National Air Force Civic Leaders Council to ensure the story of Dobbins is told at the national level.

Younker is passionate about young people and played a significant role in the expansion of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta into Cobb. She has also served as a mentor in the Cobb Young Professionals program, actively cultivating leaders and community opportunities.

Younker is a graduate of the 1999 class of Leadership Cobb and has remained actively involved since, chairing programs and serving on various committees. She also actively participates in the Young Harris College Board of Directors, Cobb Executive Women, liveSAFE Resources Academy of Women Leaders Governing Board, Victoria's Friends Ministry and Burnt Hickory Baptist Church.

Acworth Citizen of the Year
Mack Turner, vice president of the non-profit Save Acworth History Foundation (SAHF), has been named the 2018 Acworth Citizen of the Year. Turner is currently retired and spends most of his available time fundraising, planning events and visiting with potential partners.

Turner has been instrumental in raising funds and awareness for the preservation of Acworth's history. He has raised more than $40,000 for SAHF’s cause, which has supported more than 30 video-documented oral histories of long-time Acworth residents that will serve as important educational material. Turner and SAHF also played a significant role in visioning Depot Park, the forthcoming downtown Acworth park and replica train depot that will feature a history center with oral history videos, photo slideshows, static displays and the restored version of the original freight scales.

Turner has also served as an advocate who has bridged communication gaps within the community and is dedicated to preserving Acworth's history for future generations.

Kennesaw Citizen of the Year
Shelley Elder has been named the 2018 Kennesaw Citizen of the Year. A 15-year resident of Kennesaw and the owner of Elder Law Firm, Elder gives of her time, talents and resources to ensure that she makes a positive impact on her community.

Elder is a board member of the Senior Resource Foundation, the Kennesaw Teen Center, the Kennesaw Business Association and the Kennesaw Public Safety Foundation, which she co-founded. She is also charitably involved with programs and organizations assisting seniors, children and impoverished groups, such as the Special Olympics of Georgia, Power of Peace Program, 10 Women of Hope, Through Our Hearts and the Kennesaw Life Church with ForeverFed, among others.

Elder has a passion for impacting her community and those around her positively.

West Cobb Citizen of the Year
Al Martin has been named the 2018 West Cobb Citizen of the Year. Martin has lived in the Cobb community for over 30 years and is passionate about enhancing the quality of life and developing leadership in West Cobb. In addition to his role as region external affairs manager at Georgia Power, he has been a board member of many civic and community associations, such as the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club of Marietta, Cobb Safety Village Foundation, Cobb Travel & Tourism and Metro West Chapter of Citizens of Georgia Power. He is also an alumnus of Leadership Cobb and Honorary Commanders Association.

Martin has invested time in cultivating leaders, especially among young people, serving as a frequent mentor for the Cobb Young Professionals program. Further, he has chaired Leadership Cobb and played a key role in expanding the CEO Small Group program to give more opportunities for class participants to learn from the leadership journey of others.

Martin is dedicated to continue making Cobb County an even better place to visit and live for all.

South Cobb Citizen of the Year
In partnership with the South Cobb Rotary and the South Cobb Business Association, philanthropist Barbara Hickey has been named the 2018 South Cobb Citizen of the Year. Hickey is the founder of the Etiquette School of Atlanta, a founder of the Coalition of Cobb County Business Associations and co-founder of Diaper Day, which collects diapers for local charities serving impoverished families. Over the last 10 years, over half a million diapers have been donated to low-income families through Diaper Day.

Hickey was recognized Mar. 2, 2018, with a congressional proclamation on behalf of the state as the Georgia Ambassador of Goodwill. She has also served on numerous community boards and helped set up several county business associations.

Hickey believes in being kind whenever possible, because it’s always possible, and in doing “the harder right instead of the easier wrong.”